In the News  Archive

Westport, Essex farms recipients of micro-grants

The Sun Community News
May 12, 2016

by Pete DeMola

ESSEX — A dozen local farms and food producers are the recipients of a new micro-grant program designed to make farms more environmentally friendly while also bolstering the local economy.

As green shoots sprout, farmers are already putting the funds, all between $500 and $1,500, to use.

Last week, Dillon Klepetar purchased a pair of IBC totes — plastic cubes in a metal frame — as part of a planned solar-powered watering system.

Echo Farm, which is located in Essex, has its poultry, pigs and dairy animals on roughly 30 acres of grazing lands and rugged pasture. The operation, which supplies ingredients for Farmstead Catering, rotates animals throughout the fields and young forests in order to ensure long-term land fertility.

However, the pastures are often in places far from existing NYSEG utility lines.

Klepetar wanted to devise a way to get water to livestock that didn’t involve grid-type energy. So he came up with a system to use solar power to run a pair of gravity-fed water pumps.

Not only does the system — which converts solar energy into an alternating current — provide up to 500 gallons of water to the animals, but it does so in a way that insulates against an extended power outage that could be deadly to his operation by depriving animals of water.

Over time, the system might also aid with irrigation purposes.

“It helps with mitigating climate change by using green energy, but more importantly, it is a system that insulates the farm from threats posed by power outages or drought periods,” Klepetar said.

This is exactly what the Adirondack Council and Klipper Fund had in mind when they conceptualized the “Cool Farm/Healthy Planet” program.

Farmers are on the front lines in the battle against climate change, said Nathaniel and Courtney Klipper, founders of the Klipper Fund and part-time residents of Essex.

“We depend on farmers for locally sourced, clean, healthy food and the protection of wildlife habitat and open space,” said the pair in a statement. “This project can serve as an example to other parts of the nation and world.”

Klepetar noted his system is still in its experimental stages. But if it proves to be successful, he aims to make the system replicable by offering his fellow farmers a materials list and guide that will allow them to build similar systems on their own properties.

Other recipients of the grants include the North Branch Farm in Saranac, Black Kettle Farm, Tangleroot Farm, Juniper Hill Farm, Boquet Valley Farm, Hub on the Hill and North Country Creamery in Keeseville, who will use the funds to set up fencing and draw out their water lines.

Giving the cows a wider area to graze will allow more time for grass to grow back, said Ashlee Kleinhammer.

Reber Rock Farm will utilize the funds for expanded marketing efforts.

The operation’s farm stand is fast becoming their main source of income, explained Racey Bingham.

The campaign will allow the draft-powered farm to reach markets as far away as Burlington and possibly Saratoga.

Since the farm stand carries products from 10 other food producers in the Clinton-Essex County region, it becomes somewhat of a mini commerce hub that allows companies to graft onto their efforts, including Poco Más Tacos’ new line of spicy carrots, and Flying Pancakes Catering.

Owner Susie Smith also sees these efforts as interconnected.

Reber Rock gives her a platform to sell her Dak Bar product, an extension of the catering business. The bars fuel the farmers, who use them for snacks. She uses their ingredients, including Reber Rock’s maple, in both the Dak bars and in the catering biz.

As the field grows, Smith would like to use more local ingredients, including oats.
People from across the environmental, political and agricultural spectrum said they were buoyed by the level of interest in the grant program.

“Farms are essential to the economy and the beauty of the Adirondacks,” said Michele Drozd, director of the Essex Farm Institute. “Grants like these can make the difference between a good year and a bad one, and can help farmers build for the future.”

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